The Indian Super League has started. The games are giving the thrill to the Indian fans. However, the teams are yet to hit the peak. On the other hand, Indian football fans are angry about the poor performance of the national team. India have failed to win the game on trot and are yet to make it to the AFC Asian Cup.
In this exclusive with Ranjit Bajaj, we have discussed regarding the need of the hour for Indian football, how we can change the Indian football along with some experiences of Ranjit Bajaj as a player.
Exclusive with Ranjit Bajaj: What is the need of the hour for Indian football? Who do you think should be the main stakeholders for Indian football?
The need of the hour is promotion and relegation in a proper pyramid system. And, all the money spent that is spent on ISL, we have to make sure that atleast 30% of the total budget of the every club goes to grassroots and development. And not in a sham way but in actual way. That means proven that is being spent. And not on their teams. If it is an ISL team, they spend on the state. If it is an I-League team, they spend on the district (team), second division team spend on their own city. The real stakeholders should be the ones producing the clubs. That is, the players. So right now, all the votes have been given to state associations and what is happening is state associations do not let any new clubs being formed. Because, each club has a vote. So all the club which have been running since 1950s and 1960s have the votes even though the founders are long dead and childrens also dead. This is the big thing happening in Indian football and people like me (Mr. Ranjit Bajaj) are not allowed to come in.
What were the key takeaways from your time in the United Kingdom? To reach that level of football, what does it take for Indian football?
When I was there (the UK), I was working in the club as steward. So, I used to be one of the security guys, watching everything from the ground level up. And then later on with my interaction with BCCI, I was manager of the Indian Cricket Team for 21 days and six-seven test matches. And then, I was with the ICC with Pakistan cricket team as the manager for six-seven matches as well in an international event. In all these things really taught me, what real, top class administration is world class. And at the same time in England it showed me what World class football can be. So both the things merging together brought the best out of me. Then me being the footballer myself right till the age of 34-35, I was still playing, played Santosh Trophy at 35 and played Durand Cup at 32-33, that really helped me. So it was all these things coming together was the secret to my success.
What will be the “one change” that you would make in AIFF given the chance?
Change in AIFF would be again focus on the grassroots. See, you dont need to focus on seniors as the clubs are doing that, the leagues are doing that. So if the only one thing you should be doing is focussing only on the grassroots and coaches education. They are doing coaches education but I would have done it in a much bigger, grander and wider way. They (AIFF) are doing in a very minute way. When I saw minute, that means, when they have centre of excellence like mine, and when I have been offering at such cheap prices, they still give me only one course a month. Whereas, I can do ten a month. And when I have said that we are not making any money of it, and then they see we are the cheapest in India, still I only get (one for one month) probably, now, they have made rules and made it once in every three months to one place. So, they are making it more difficult to get coaches to get coaching education and I need them to listen to me because I will keep shouting from the rooftops unless the coaching education becomes dirt cheap. And I am here to provide dirt cheap education and I want all the best coaches to come to Minerva so we can give it at the cheapest cost to the referees and coaches and physios and all I need is permission from them. So, I dont think this is much to ask for.